Questions of adulthood

Sting operations on underage drinkers and purveyors point to larger issues.

During the Minneapolis Aquatennial block party celebration, eight of the 21 sites included in an undercover sting were caught serving alcoholic beverages to “underage minors.” The operation was part of a 21-city partnership commemorating the passage of the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, a dubious law at best.

Because of the repeal of prohibition, each state has had the power to set its own age requirement for alcohol consumption; however, because of the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, states have faced the threat of losing federal-aid highway funding if their drinking age is not set at 21. Naturally, all states have complied with this law.

Admittedly, the history of alcohol prohibition and temperance is a long and complex one, and the 21-age minimum is now seen as good public policy. The logic being that younger people do not have the same capacity to make the same responsible decisions as “adults” and that the younger a person begins drinking, the more likely he or she is to develop drinking problems.

Perhaps, the prevailing puritanism of the United States has contributed to its excessive problems with alcoholism and alcohol-related tragedies.

In spite of the logic, people who are well older than 21 still have serious drinking problems, and people who are 18, 19 and 20 are able to vote, be tried in court as adults, get married and register for the draft.

What’s more, many University students either know people, or are themselves, serving the United States right now in Iraq while being younger than the age of 21. Further, many “underage” University students are making their own way through college paying their own tuition and board while trying to balance the rigors of academia and “adult decisions” every day.

The United States remains as one of only four industrialized countries that has a legal drinking age of 21 or older, but it is clear that this needs to change. If younger people are expected to “act” as adults and be given “adult” responsibility, there should be no question that they too are adults capable of handling their rights.